Running out of Christmas cash? Five ways to stretch the rest

Sarah Coles
You don't need to put Christmas on plastic
You don't need to put Christmas on plastic

There's always the risk that the December pay packet doesn't quite get us to Christmas, so it's no surprise that so many of us reach for the plastic in order to keep shopping – and put the problem off until the bill arrives.

However, it's not the only option. There are five unusual ways to make the last of your December pay packet stretch far further.

See also: Will your Christmas deliveries arrive on time?

See also: 56% of men would prefer cash instead of Christmas present, poll shows

See also: Top tips on Christmas shopping from Watchdog

1. Buy one present for a group of friends rather than one each's money-saving expert, Carla Rio Alves says you can either run a secret Santa, or try a twist on the festive favourite, called dirty Santa. She explains: "Rather than buying separate gifts for the whole family, each player brings just one present instead. After placing all the presents in the middle of the room (or under the tree), everyone puts their names into a hat and waits for their name to be chosen."

"The first name to be drawn, picks any present to open – however, the next person, can either unwrap a new gift or steal an opened present instead. The owner of the 'stolen gift', picks a new gift to call their own (which can either be unwrapped or another unopened present in the room). Although no direct 'steal backs' are allowed, there's plenty of room for tactical gameplay to secure your favourite present."

2. Stage a frock swap
Rather than everyone rushing out to buy something new to wear for the party season, you can try a frock swap – otherwise known as a swishing party. You can invite friends round for a drink, and they can bring a party outfit from their wardrobe. The idea is that everyone leaves with a new party outfit for the season. The only proviso is to think carefully about the guest list, so that everyone has someone of a similar size to swap with.

3. Get crafty
You don't have to transform into Martha Stewart, because everyone can make something – even if it's just melting chocolate and mixing it with crushed biscuits to make rocky road.

There's also a simple trick to turn a single skill into a hamper of homemade goodies. There are six steps. 1) Get five friends together. 2) Agree what you will all make. 3) Make five of whatever your item is. 4) Cover five shoeboxes in Christmas paper. 5) Put one of each item in each box. 6) Give your hamper of five awesome homemade goodies as a fabulous present.

4. Get everything cheaper
Black Friday wasn't the beginning and end of the discounts, so you shouldn't have to pay full price for anything between now and Christmas (unless it's a Hatchimal). If there are no vouchers, special offers, or one-day spectaculars, then you can still haggle. You can do this in store, or nowadays you can do it online. lets you paste an Amazon product URL into the website tool, and it will generate a better offer.

5. Cash in your points
If you have a loyalty card, you may be saving up for a big Christmas points shop. However, before you spend anything, it's worth checking out the deals from their partners – which sometimes offer you a much better value.

You could treat a friend to dinner out as your Christmas present. Tesco offers a £10 voucher for all kinds of restaurants for just £2.50 in vouchers. If you take them to Pizza Express, you'll also get a free dessert when you buy a starter and a main, so you can get the whole lot for two people for as little as £10 of Tesco vouchers.